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Harry Eugene Claiborne
Third Child of Arthur Smith (the 2nd) and Minnie Claiborne (the 2nd) and a grandson of Arthur Smith (the 1st) and Martha Jane Claiborne
2 July 1917 - 19 January 2004

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Harry pictured in 1996, courtesy of the Las Vegas Review-Journal
Harry Eugene Claiborne was born in McRae, Arkansas, and graduated from the Cumberland University School of Law in 1941. He often recounted a story that his acceptance to law school was due to the recommendation of a drunken snuff salesman he had met while hitchhiking.[J.M. Kalil and Carri Geer Thevenot, "Ex-federal judge Claiborne kills self," Las Vegas Review Journal, 21 January 2004.] He served for a time as a sergeant in the Army stationed in Santa Monica, California. Inspired by his father's stand against the KKK, Harry claims to have refused to go along with the internment of Japanese in camps, and was punished for doing so.

He was admitted to both the Arkansas and Nevada bars, and spent two years as a deputy prosecutor before becoming a well-known defense attorney in Las Vegas. A flamboyant attorney, Claiborne would frighten opposing counsel by carrying in large stacks of papers that he passed off as his evidence in the case. The papers in the folders often were blank. In the 1970s he represented famed entertainer Frank Sinatra in several of his legal battles with Vegas gaming officials. Harry ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1964, losing in the Democratic primary. He was appointed a U.S. district court judge by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, on the recommendation of his former opponent, Senator Howard Cannon.

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Harry dons judicial robes before being sworn in as a federal judge on
1 Sept. 1978
But in December of 1983 he was indicted by a federal grand jury for bribery, fraud, and tax evasion. In April of 1984 the jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. He was tried again in July on only the evasion charges and was found guilty the next month, making him the first federal judge in the history of the United States to ever be convicted of crimes while on the bench. He was sentenced to two years in prison in October, and was in prison from May of 1986 to October of 1987. Harry long maintained he was too busy on the bench to pay close attention to his tax return, noting he never even looked at the document until his accountant brought it to him. "I asked how much I owed, and I wrote a check."[Ed Koch and Jeff German, "Former U.S. Judge Claiborne dies at 86," Las Vegas Sun, 20 January 2004.]

He was impeached by the United States House of Representatives on 22 July 1986 on two charges of tax evasion and one charge of bringing disrepute to the federal judiciary. He was convicted by the U.S. Senate on 9 October 1986, removing him from office. He was only the fifth man in U.S. history to be removed from office through impeachment by the U.S. Congress and the first since Halsted Ritter in 1936. At his impeachment hearing he told the Senate, "If they ever write down anything I've ever done in my whole life, they'll be able to say Harry Claiborne had a court in which the little citizen received a fair and just treatment from the bench."[Ibid.]

He was allowed to begin practicing law again in Nevada in 1987 and once again established himself as one of the nation's best defense lawyers. But on 19 January 2004 he shot himself to death in Las Vegas, Nevada, apparently due to his health battles with cancer and Alzheimer's disease. In a 1996 interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Claiborne said in a folksy Arkansas drawl, "My road through life has indeed been a rocky one, but, my God, it has been exciting -- I'm the lucky one."[Ibid.]

Harry married (1st) Barbara Redfield and the pair had three children, listed below.[Much of the information regarding Harry's descendants is based upon email conversations between Dr. Nancy Claiborne and Joshua Andrew Claybourn in 2006 and 2007. All pictures of Harry's descendants are courtesy of Dr. Nancy Claiborne, as well.] Harry married (2nd) Lee McGuire, (3rd) Lynn O'Day, and (4th) Norma Ries.

Pedigree Chart

John B. Claiborne
1812 - 1874
Arthur Smith Claiborne (1st)
1846 - 1936
Perlina E. Thomason
c. 1830 - 1870
Arthur Smith Claiborne (2nd)
1885 - 1962
Martha Jane Hale
1852 - 1929
Harry Eugene Claiborne
1917 - 2004
Minnie King
1889 - unknown


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    Roni Renea Martin
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    Carol A. Claiborne
    Carol Ann (Claiborne) Johnson was born on 19 July 1946 in Las Vegas, Nevada. She married (1st) Ronald Edward Martin on 11 December 1964 in Long Beach, California.[Ronald Martin was born on 26 April 1946 in Las Vegas, Nevada.] The two had one child, Roni Renea Martin, who was born on 24 August 1966.

    Carol married (2nd) Harold Alan Gough Scott on 26 October 1980 in Las Vegas, Nevada. She then married (3rd) Merle Edward Johnson on 1 September 1995 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

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    Left to right: Carol (Claiborne) Johnson, Janice (Claiborne) Kollander, Harry E. Claiborne, and Nancy Claiborne.
    Janice (Claiborne) Kollander was born on 19 March 1948 in Las Vegas, Nevada. She married (1st) Hans Ulrich (John) Rubin on 20 July 1971 in Reno, Nevada and divorced on 7 May 1974.[Hans Rubin born 4 September 1927 in Montreux, Switzerland.] The two had no children.

    Janice married (2nd) Robert Henry Muenzer (born 4 July 1948 in Chicago, Illinois) on 5 October 1974, in Pacific Palisades, California. Robert died on 26 June 1995. The couple had two children:

    1. Christine Muenzer was born on 29 August 1979, in Van Nuys, California. She married Tyler Heer, but is now divorced.

    2. Michael Christine Muenzer was born on 7 September 1983, in Irvine, California
    Janice married (3rd) Ira Mikhael Kollander (born 13 April 1941 in New York City, NY) on 26 April 2003.

  3. Dr. Nancy Claiborne
    Dr. Nancy Claiborne was born on 28 August 1949 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A resident of Palatine Bridge, N.Y., Nancy is an associate professor at the University at Albany. There she serves as director for the Center for Human Services Research. Claiborne holds a Ph.D. from the University of Houston's graduate school of social work (1998), as well as a M.S.W. from the University of Southern California (1982) with a concentration in community organization and public administration, and a B.S. in psychology from Portland State University (1976).

    Nancy married (1st) Steven James Adams on 1 October 1970 in Eugene, Oregon, and divorced on 6 April 1977.[Steven Adam was born on 16 February 1949, in Tillamook, Oregon.]

    Nancy married (2nd) Henry (Hank) Willard Vandenburgh on 16 August 1997 in Friendswood, Texas.[Hank Vandenburgh was born on 28 April 1945 in Los Angeles, California.] Hank has one child from a previous marriage to Michelle Feldman - Lilah Rose.[Lilah Rose was born on 7 June 1978 in Los Angeles, California.]

References and Notes

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